By Ben Fischer
University of Maryland
July 12, 2018
COTUIT – Heading into the ninth inning on Thursday, the Cotuit Kettleers looked like they were headed for another uninspiring loss. The Wareham Gatemen held a 2-1 lead and Cotuit had only four hits. But with a single by third baseman Ryan Reynolds (Texas), a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Duke Ellis (Texas) and an RBI single by second baseman Brady Smith (Florida), the Kettleers scratched across a run and stole a point in the standings, tying the Gateman 2-2 in 10 innings.
Cotuit was playing from behind for almost the entire ballgame. Wareham took the lead in the second inning when starter John Baker (Ball State) uncorked a bases-loaded wild pitch, bringing in shortstop Ryan Kreidler (UCLA) in from third base. Wareham doubled their lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Jeremy Ydens (UCLA).
In the bottom of the third, the Kettleers got a run back in controversial fashion. Catcher Zach Humphreys (TCU) curled a ball around the left field foul pole for a sole home run. However, third base umpire Brian Troupe ruled the ball foul, prompting a passionate protest from Cotuit coach Mike Roberts. Eventually, the umpires conferenced ruling the ball fair to cut the Wareham lead to 2-1.
“It was fair, there was no doubt about it,” Roberts said. “The left fielder knew it, the third baseman knew it, everyone in the ballpark knew it except the third base umpire. I’m thankful the home plate umpire did what was correct and called it fair…When the hands went up to call it foul I was in a little bit of shock…But I’ll give them credit, they huddled and got it right.”
While the mild-mannered Humphreys appealed his case to the umpire slightly more calmly than his coach, he said that he was just as unhappy with the original call.
“I can’t tell you what was going through my mind right there,” Humphreys said. “I was really upset. I told myself ‘if they uphold this call, I’m getting ejected,’”
The home run was Humphreys second in six days and was part of a three-hit day for the Kettleers’ backstop. Since July 1, Humphreys has raised his average from .172 to .280, an improvement Roberts credits to fundamental changes.
“It’s two things; sitting still and better hand action with using the back foot,” Roberts said.” I’m a backside hitter, I don’t talk about the frontside at all. It’s about throwing the hands and he’s done a really good job of that and the two home runs he’s hit have jumped. He’s done an outstanding job.”
Humphreys credited his recent offensive outburst not to his swing mechanics but to a change in his approach
“I think it’s just being more aggressive,” Humphreys said. “I usually never swing at the first pitch, but the last few games a lot of my hits have come on first pitches. It’s just not putting myself in an 0-2 hole and just going right out and attacking.”
Despite a mediocre start by Baker and a poor overall offensive performance, the Kettleers were kept in the game by relievers Ryan Lefner (St. Louis) and Stephen Schoch (UMBC) who combined for four innings, allowing just two hits while fanning four and walking none. Roberts praised his bullpen for keeping hitters off-balance and Wareham off the board.
“They did a better job of keeping the ball down,” Roberts said. “They also changed speeds. We got in a little bit of a rut where everything was the same speed for a while…but if you change speeds, not many people are going to hit it.”
Cotuit will travel to Wareham Friday to play the Gateman at 6:30 p.m. at Clem Spillane Field. It is their only home-and-home series of the season.